We begin with a brief visit to the 17th century Spice Bazaar*, one of Istanbul’s most colorful, bustling attractions. Next, we travel the Golden Horn on our way to an unforgettable cruise along the Bosphorus, the majestic strait that runs through Istanbul, linking Europe and Asia. From our cruise boat, we view the dramatic sights lining the Bosphorus’ wooded shores: mosques, a bridge that for a time was the world’s longest and Rumeli Hisarý, a massive fortress built by Mehmet the Conqueror in just three months as he prepared to take Istanbul. Also noteworthy on this tour are the 19th century mansions of the Ottoman elite and the Sultans’ fanciful gingerbread palaces and hunting lodges.
After the lunch we begin by driving across the first Bosphorus Bridge, which for a time was the world’s longest suspension bridge, and head for the summit of Çamlýca Hill, which affords panoramic views of Istanbul, the Sea of Marmara and the Princes’ Islands. From here a short drive brings us to the Palace of Beylerbeyi on the shore of the Bosphorus. Perhaps the most elegant of the late Ottoman palaces, Beylerbeyi boasts six sumptuously furnished reception halls with Bohemian crystal chandeliers and Sèvres and Chinese vases, including a main salon with an indoor fountain. The sultans’ guests at the palace included Empress Eugénie of France, Shah Nasruddin of Persia and Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia. (Every day except Mondays and Thursdays.)